As the first Barnsley Music Awards looms ever nearer, we continue with our weekly look at one of the award categories – this week Best EP/Single 2014.
Inevitably, in a town the size of ours, with the majority of bands younger and unsigned, the number of albums released and recorded is low. Sensibly, most acts opt for the format of the extended player to showcase their wares.
I’m lucky that I get to hear many of these early on when musicians send me them over for reviews. Obviously, I can’t like everything and I indeed have my own taste in music. I’ve never been one for bands imitating Arctics/Oasis/Roses, as good as those bands might be.
When I look at my favourite ten, it reminds me of the last great period for buying singles – the 90’s. When the Manics, Suede, Oasis or Blur all released a new single, they were swamped with b-sides. It would mean a school lunch trip to Casa Disco or EGS to spend my hard earned pocket money. Those four bands all had quality b-sides, arguably stronger than the lead singles. Buying an EP or a single was an event I looked forward to. If you were to look at the charts now, you’d think that those times were gone. However, down here at grass-roots level, bands carry a torch for the quality EP and single, and here are my picks from the last year.
BEST EP/SINGLE 2014
AZTEC DOLL – BOWDLERIZE
Their debut EP, Endlessly, was a dark and glorious fusion of JuJu era Siouxsie, The Cure and PJ Harvey circa To Bring You My Love. This, their second EP, was fleshed out with the addition of keyboard player and backing vocalist Hayley Youell and references as diverse as Warpaint, Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins and Snake River Conspiracy. They continue to be one of the most consistent and exciting bands in town right now. And they always look fantastic to boot!
THE EXHIBITION – CARRY TO THE END
Four perfect slices of post-punk for fans of Joy Division, Editors and Hope of the States. Check out the video to the title track. This EP is their finest and most concise moment yet.
PUSHER – LET IT BREAK
Quite possibly Barnsley’s finest band in decades. Over the last year, Pusher have carefully crafted both a dark, brooding and cinematic musical and visual identity. Imagine if you would a cacophony of Mark Lanegan, Chemical Brothers, Lee Hazelwood and Joy Division. This single perfectly encapsulated their sound on lush white vinyl. B-Side was equalled it’s weight. And check out the video!
LAUREN TATE – MY REFLECTION
Lauren’s debut, self-penned EP was very much personal affair. The lyrics, music and artwork all suggested an artist eager to be taken seriously, and deservedly so. Her voice is peerless. That, her ever evolving band and a broad palette of influences ranging from L7 to Tom Waits equal a future star not to be ignored.
SERVERS – CLAUSTROPHOBIA
Servers’ second single was a sure highlight on their outstanding debut album. The song is all heavy menace and slow burning angst, with nods to The Doors, HIM and and Sabbath. New B-Side, Bodies in The Ground reference Ghost B.C. and Baroness. This release was especially notably for the cover of Madness’ Lovestruck, recorded especially for Teenage Cancer Trust.
ANTESAINT – DOWNFALL
They continue to be one of my favourite young bands. Here they channel the spirit of Biffy, Paramore and Foos. Hayley Smith’s voice sparkles on the standout track, the balled Falling and the band benefit from having a sound not too far removed from the 90s alt-rock scene.
SYSTEM OF HATE – INSANITY EP & REMIXES
Featuring members of veterans Total Confusion and Danse Society, System of Hate seethe snarling and nasty anti-establishment, no-logo punk. Here their Insanity EP gets a total overhaul from The Black Lamps’ Lyndon Scarfe, who pushes forth the tribal drums and bass, adding new layers of John Carpenter-esque industrial horror.
THE HURRIERS – TRUTH AND JUSTICE
Released at the turn of the new year, Truth and Justice, proved that the old fights still need fighting. However, that also means that good old fashioned punk music is still a fire in our bellies. The Hurriers are two generations of punks with soul. Their title track was one of the most important songs to come out of Barnsley in years, and on paper could be a 30 year old folk song. However, all three tracks here have bite. The production gives this call to arms a modern sheen.
MCCARTHY VIGIL – MCCARTHY VIGIL
This is the third release from Of National Importance Records in this list. Here, McCarthy Vigil add artist Annie Winder to the line-up who supplies backing vocals reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne. There are ideas a plenty here, all subtly and slowly played out, while tipping their cap to Radiohead, Modest Mouse and Deerhunter.
NAFROSOUNDS – JUMP ARARND (ACID MIX) and ASYLUM (NAFRO REMIX)
An unusual final choice and a bit of a cheat too. Both The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican and Black Vines opted to have remixes embellish the release of two of their singles, Jump Ararnd and Black Boots on Red Dirt respectively.
The Doonicans made stems of their track available for fans to remix. The highlight was a remix by local producer Nathan king of Nafrosound. His remix of an older Black Vines track was a nod to the days of Senser, Therapy and Helmet.
What is your favourite 2014 EP or single from a Barnsley act? You can of course still vote, though that is limited to just one vote per IP address. Sounds fair I reckon.
To vote, go here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BMAAwards
The Barnsley Music Awards takes place Friday 5th December at the Walkabout in Barnsley. Follow the Live in Barnsley facebook page for updates about the event.